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venerdì 23 settembre 2016

The styles of Franciacorta from the big to the small

The van door closed one last time and I clumsily stumbled back towards the agriturismo buzzed and exhausted with the other four American wine writers for Franciacorta.  We just finished a memorable dinner of lasagne, donkey steaks and polenta and we gathered on the second floor deck to wind down with one last bottle.  After tasting over 20 wines a day we suddenly realized that we hadn't found one wine we disliked during our three days touring wineries.  That dinner we finally opened an offensive bottle that shocked us a bit but hey, it's bound to happen eventually and it actually helped put everything into perspective.  We needed a redemption bottle and we popped a delicious Brut vintage 2009 from Ronco Calino which spends 50 months on the lees.  The sharp cool air was a comforting shock on the skin and the healthy bubbles from Calino reminded us of all the great stuff we drank these last few days.

The wavy vineyards of Ronco Calino in the backyard of the winery

Consistancy and quality is a huge stand out here in Franciacorta and you can see it from a smaller 70,000 bottle producer like Ronco Calino all the way to the gigantic 1.5 million bottle production of Ca' del Bosco.  

Ferghettinas square bottle in the lights of the cellar
There are also many unique styles in production from one winery to the next. Mosnel swears by their horizontal stainless steel tanks to achieve more complexity.  They have some of the most drinkable and refreshing yet complex wines of the trip.  Ca' del Bosco puts all of their grapes through a jacuzzi bath to reduce sulfites before they end up in the biggest stainless steel tank I have ever seen in my life.  They even add Nitrogen to eliminate the presence of oxygen while Mattia Vezzola of Bellavista purposely adds oxygen to the must with his unique method to eliminate impurities, a campaign they call "air your wine".  Another interesting idea comes from Matteo Gatti of Ferghettina who patented a square bottle so there is more surface area for the wine to come in contact with the lees.  The Ferghettina winery is a great example of not judging a book by its cover and if you dig deeper into their story it is a truly fascinating one.  While most of the Franciacorta producers have an Industrial background in common, the Ferghettina family come from a background of sharecropping.  

But, whichever style winery you come across the end product that almost all of the producers want to acheive is a similar one.  Fresh, bright, healthy acidity, limited use of oak only for fermentation and usually the least amount of dosage as possible.  These are great wines that taste of the land and express the passion and thirst of the winemakers.

Jeremy next to the epic million bottle Cuvee' Prestige, stainless steel tank at Ca' del Bosco

First day in Franciacorta with team Classicmethod!

Jeremy Parzen aka Do Bianchi above showing us the topographic map of the Franciacorta vineyards when five of us arrived here on Tuesday.  One of the most important things we learned right away about Franciacorta is the diversity in soil types as shown in the different colors on the map.  The wine makers can vinify up to 40 different expressions of chardonnay seperately and combine those base wines in their own artistic expression for their finished product.  This is a mythical place to grow grapes posted up right underneath Lago d'Iseo.  The lake gives a maritime influence on top of the Alpine climate and a prehistoric glacier slide creates a natural amphiteatre almost enclosing the vineyards in the area.   There is an incredible consistency of quality and movement towards organic viticulture that is not easy to come across in any other wine region.  What a complex area to learn about and as Jeremy has said, "These wines aren't beginner wines and deserve some time and concentration to try and understand them."   So I take a deep breath of clean crisp alpine air before diving into this majestic land of grapes and sparkling wine. 

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